For immediate release
June 9, 2005
Amanda Cooper 917-533-4050
David Koff 213-448-9093
Hilda Delgado 213-276-3375
Workers Walk Out to Stand Up for their Rights
First Major Hotel Strike in Los Angeles History
(Los Angeles, CA) – Workers at the Hyatt West Hollywood walked off the job today to protest the actions of the Los Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council (EC). Workers are on strike because they want the Los Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council (EC) to return the more than half a million dollars in health care co-pays that the EC hotels collected from workers between July 2004 and February 2005. The National Labor Relations Board now alleges that the hotels collected that money illegally and has announced plans to issue complaints against the hotels for 63 unfair labor practices. The union met with the EC recently to try and settle the charges, but the EC showed no interest in reaching a settlement. Workers are striking for two weeks to raise awareness of these alleged abuses of labor law, and to try to get the hotels to stop using possibly illegal tactics to pressure them into accepting an unfair contract proposal.
“When the hotels started charging me for my healthcare I was really upset. I am a single mother with three kids. I am already struggling as it is,” explained Morena Hernandez, a housekeeper at the Hyatt West Hollywood for 8 years. “While I was paying for the health insurance, I had to cut back on groceries and bus tokens for my daughter to use to get to school. Ten dollars a week might be just a little for some people, but it’s a lot for me. I want that money back.”
The contract covering approximately 3,000 hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE Local 11 expired in April, 2004. Workers stood together to demand a strong contract, and were met with resistance by the EC hotels. In July, 2004, after workers voted overwhelmingly to reject the EC’s “final” proposal, the EC unilaterally implemented a health care co-pay of $40/month that many workers could not afford. The union asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate the situation.
In January, 2005, the General Counsel of the NLRB informed the EC and the union he had found probable cause to take the EC to trial, alleging they had broken the law by not bargaining with the union in good faith, trying to stifle union members’ communication with their representatives and the public, and instituting the health care co-pays.
More than 500 families dropped their health care plans because of the increased cost. Some parents placed their children in taxpayer supported plans to try and keep them healthy. One family incurred more than $17,000 in health care costs.
“In December 2004 my insurance was cut off. My whole family depends on my health insurance from the hotel. My young daughter and I are diabetic. I had to put my daughter on Medi-Cal. In order to get insulin I had to go to a church clinic. To this day, I still do not have health insurance,” explained Veronica Flores, a room attendant at the Century Plaza.
The hotels collected more than $300 each from many of these low-income families, and more than $650,000 in total. For the workers who didn’t make the copayments, the EC hotels also stopped paying into the workers’ health and welfare fund that covers their insurance costs, leaving the fund short more than $1.5 million. The workers need that money back.
In addition to the Hyatt West Hollywood, the other Employer’s Council hotels are the Westin Bonaventure, Sheraton Universal, Regent Beverly Wilshire, Westin Century Plaza, Wilshire Grand, and the Millennium Biltmore.
“Nothing is more sacred to all of us than the health of our families. By threatening our members’ health care, the hotel’s attacked our workers where we are all most vulnerable. But rather than backing down, workers stood together, and today they are taking a stand for their rights,” says Tom Walsh, Secretary Treasurer of Local 11. “These out of town owners and operators need to pay the workers, their health care fund, and our community hospitals back for this attack. This is the only way they can show the workers and the taxpayers of Los Angeles County the respect they deserve.”
For more information, or to arrange an interview with workers, please contact Amanda Cooper (917-533-4050), David Koff (213-448-9093) or Hilda Delgado (213-276-3375).
You can also visit www.hotelworkersunited.org for more information.
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